Chapter 2, april
I was born to a single, teenage mother. My mom is one of the strongest women I know and is responsible for molding me into the strong woman I am today! My mom married my dad before I was two and gave birth to my amazing sister shortly after.
The earliest childhood memory I can recall is around four years old. My mom, dad, sister, and I lived in South Carolina. I started Kindergarten and finished first grade there. Looking back, there are not very many happy memories I have during that time. Some of the most awful things that a little girl could ever experience occurred around that time. Those are things I have never mentioned until now, but they have haunted me every single day of my life. That period of time was one of the first memories I have of my dad hitting my mom. It was the first instance in which I remember feeling the urge to protect her and my sister. I loved my dad, and he was a great man, but I do believe he and my mother were not meant for each other during that particular period of their lives.
My family and I moved back to Tennessee right before I began second grade. This would be the year I developed some of the most precious friendships I would ever have. I was a quiet child and did very well in school. No one had to put pressure on me to make good grades, I did enough of that to myself. My parent’s relationship did not get any better as the years went on. In fact, it became progressively worse. I do not think I have ever admitted this to anyone other than my sister, but I feel that the demise of their marriage was partly my fault.
At the age of 10, my parents sat me down one night, after my sister went to bed, to tell me that my dad was not actually my biological dad. My biological father’s parents had recently made contact with my mother, and they wanted to meet me. My dad did not seem very happy about this, but if I recall, they let me make the decision on whether or not I wanted to meet my biological father and his parents. I will never forget my dad tucking me into bed that night. He told me how much he loved me and that I would always be his daughter and he would always be my dad, no matter what – and he is!
I decided I wanted to meet my biological father. So he drove up from Florida and took me to his home for a week. I had the most amazing time! It was so “neat” having a new family that doted over me like he and his parents did. Looking back, I wish my parents had never allowed me to make the decision to meet that man. I will later recall meeting him as one of the biggest mistakes of my life. However, that particular visit was a happy one, but that happiness did not last long…
When I returned home, my mom, sister, and I moved out. I believe that my dad was so heartbroken about me going to visit “the other man”, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My parent's marriage was over, and our lives would never be the same. I am not sure why I wanted them to stay together so badly. It was not as if they had a fairy tale relationship, it was more of a nightmare in a bad horror film. Not long after the divorce, my dad moved to Georgia, which made it difficult for my sister and I to see him as often as we would have liked. Later, he would admit that it was not the distance that kept him from visiting more often. It was, in fact, the volatile relationship between him and my mother.
Promises from my biological father to stay in contact and forge a relationship with his new found daughter became more broken than my parent’s marriage. I remember that being the start of my extreme fear of rejection.
From that moment forward, I never wanted to put myself out there to be hurt again. Throughout the next 20 years, I would only speak to my biological father a total of two additional times. That was where I developed what most refer to as “daddy issues”.
By the time I started middle school, my mom had remarried. In that stage of my life is where I met someone who would turn out to be an extremely important part of my journey through childhood and beyond. My mom’s new husband added another daughter to our family. Their relationship started out well, but that happiness was short-lived. My mom and step-father began having problems in their marriage, which in turn took much of her focus away from my sister and I – and rightfully so. I was so badly seeking attention from anyone willing to give it, that I began to demand it from the wrong people.
My high school experience was much different than what I imagine many other teenage girls endured. My home life was becoming more chaotic than ever. The boy I met while I was in middle school had become my boyfriend, and I use that term quite loosely. If true love involved hiding in the floorboard of your boyfriend’s truck while you drive through town, we were irrevocably in love! After graduation, he joined the military, but I still had 4 years of high school. Oh yeah, did I mention he was substantially older than I was?
At the end of my freshman year, I developed what could only be described as a rare illness. I was sick all the time, and my already stick-like frame continued to diminish at a rapid rate. My mom became suspicious and made an appointment with my pediatrician. I will save the dramatic details for the book and tell you that what we once thought was childhood cancer turned out to be something a little less morbid – I was with child. At the ripe young age of 14, I was pregnant with my first child. That would not be the last time I developed that “sickness” as a teenager. I became pregnant again during my senior year, but not before getting married my junior year. My senior year was just as much of a nightmare that the rest of my life had been.
My mother agreed to sign for me to get married with one stipulation – that I finish school. Of course, dropping out of school was not an option for me. That was my safe place, and I really enjoyed learning. My future husband agreed to the stipulation but was quick to change his mind soon after we said, “I do”. He demanded that if our marriage was going to work, I had to move to North Carolina where he was stationed. Of course, I was ecstatic to start that new chapter in life, until I realized that I had no desire to begin ‘adulting’ at such a young age. Not to mention, the two of us had no business being married and starting a family at that time in our lives. I think, to be fair, the pressure got to both of us.
On my end, I had not been shown the best example of what a healthy marriage was. For him, I believe he had not had the chance to experience all that life had to offer. I was fortunate enough to have gone through school with the same group of peers since second grade. Going from a class size of 96 to over 500, was an absolute shock to my introvert personality! To say I went from a big fish in a little pond to a minnow in the ocean was an understatement.
The stress got to both of us, and I shortly moved back to Tennessee. I would move back and forth one more time before finally deciding that I would stay in my hometown and graduate high school with my friends. My decision was highly influenced by my first run-in with domestic abuse. I was no stranger to that stigma, but it became much different living it even more first-hand than I had as a child. Working 2 jobs, raising a baby, and dealing with all the madness that was my life, I still managed to graduate with honors. I remember walking across that stage to get my diploma and being extremely proud of myself. My principal even stopped me to whisper in my ear that he knew how hard it had been for me, and that he was so proud of me. Those words meant more to me than he will ever know!
Memories and events from your childhood can definitely shape you into the adult you one day desire to become. I want to believe that my experiences helped carve me into the strong woman that I currently am and strive to become even more of each day. I would also like to think that I am living proof that your past does not have to define you. Your prior circumstances do not decide your future successes. You have the choice to make life exactly what you want it to be if you decide to work hard, and never give up!